Fierce fighting shakes Mosul as Iraq army takes hospital
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi army met fierce resistance from the Islamic State group in Mosul Wednesday after taking a hospital deep inside the eastern half of the city, commanders said.
The army's 9th Armoured Division said it had retaken Al-Salam hospital, which lies near the Tigris river that separates the two halves of the city.
The push launched on Tuesday is the farthest the army has penetrated into east Mosul since the start of a broad offensive launched on October 17 to retake the city from IS.
"We advanced in Al-Salam district but the situation is difficult, there is heavy fighting," Brigadier General Shaker Kadhem said.
"We took control of Al-Salam hospital, which was a command centre for Daesh," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the jihadist organisation.
The elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) has spearheaded the drive into Mosul over the past month, retaking several neighbourhoods in the east of the city.
The army also punched into Mosul in November but its progress has been slower and, seven weeks into the offensive, Iraqi forces barely control half of the eastern side of the city.
Kadhem said the goal of the latest push was to meet up with CTS forces on the banks of the Tigris in the southeast of the city.
A senior CTS officer said the fighting in Al-Salam was fierce and the 9th Division had asked for backup.
"The 9th Division's situation is difficult and they have called for support. We are sending a regiment there," the officer said on condition of anonymity.
"They are surrounded now in Al-Salam hospital... we are on the way so we can open a passage for them," he said.
The ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency said the jihadists had carried out five suicide car bomb attacks in the area over the past 24 hours.
It said the army was holed up in the hospital compound and had suffered heavy losses.
Iraqi officers did not provide any casualty toll for the latest fighting.